Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where You Once Belonged

Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf takes place in the same small Colorado town as Plainsong. The style of writing is very similar and it almost feels like a continuation of the other in that it takes place in the same tiny town and there are even one or two recurring (minor) characters. That said, where Plainsong was heartwarming, this book was heartbreaking.

Where You Once Belonged follows the story of Jack Burdette as told by Pat Arbuckle, both life long residents of Holt, Colorado. Growing up, Jack is basically a prank pulling jerk-off that gets away with too much as a result of his stellar football skills. Eventually though, the pranks get more poisonous and after committing a major crime that impacts the whole town, he flees Colorado. Only to return 8 years later and stir things up all over again.

I really love Haruf's writing style. It's so simplistic and honest feeling. Haruf's books have the feeling of listening to your Grandfather tell you a story; the way he starts sentences with "So" and "Anyways". The story is told in first person, which is a departure for Haruf. I think it had more to do with the story than the narration style, but in almost all ways, I preferred Plainsong to this book. That said, it wasn't like I couldn't still respect this novel.

Haruf has a way of describing human interactions that are commonplace but making them seem very relevant to the story. It's so rare that authors do this. While he describes playing in the river with two young boys, I found myself wondering "Is he only describing this scene because it's foreshadowing something - are the boys going to drown in the river?" But that's not why he does it. Sometimes he takes his time describing these scenes just to give you a more full picture of the characters and their connections to each other. It made me realize that so many authors only tell the parts of the story that seem directly related to the plot. You don't often find an author willing to tell you some of the every day in detail.

This is going to be a weird analogy, but it feels right to tell it so I"m going to. I still sometimes remember the scene in the movie "Friends with Money" where Jennifer Aniston's character is shown washing her face before bed. They show the entire thing - putting a headband on, pumping the face soap in her hand, lathering the soap and scrubbing all the parts of her face while she looks at herself in the mirror the whole time. And there's no background music, it's just quiet like it is at night when you wash your face. For some reason that scene was so poignant for me. Like I knew her character and understood her better after watching her do something so simple and private. Reading his books gives me the same feeling. Is that weird?

No comments: